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Perl6 and Extreme Programming

by Ovid (Cardinal)
on May 25, 2002 at 18:41 UTC ( #169289=perlmeditation: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

I'm a big fan of Perl, am excited about Perl6, and find Extreme Programming to be very interesting. We've started down the XP path at work and already I'm enjoying greater productivity. In one of our last stand-up meetings (where we sit down, oddly enough), one of the programmers asked a question about Perl6 in relation to XP and I mentioned that Perl6 is being designed to support XP. He asked what I meant and I realized that I was just parroting (ha!) what I had just read on

In a question about design goals, the following was offered as one of the answers:

Beyond the ability to evolve Perl itself is the ability to evolve solutions written in Perl. Among other things, this involves the scalability of solutions in Perl. The user must be able to start quick-and-dirty and grow the program into a robust large system. Users must be able to switch programming styles, paradigms, and methodologies as they refactor their programs in the light of new requirements. Perl must not only be an example of, but must also support, Extreme Programming.

I can understand the desire to be able to start small and expand upon it. I can also understand the idea behind being able to easily rethink and refactor a problem. However, the answer still seems to be a bit vague. In fact, it almost seems like a marketing response: "yes, yes, we're working on PSI::ESP. It'll be out in the next release."

Does anyone familiar with Perl6 care to offer concrete examples of what was meant by the XP quote?


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Re: Perl6 and Extreme Programming
by TheDamian (Priest) on May 25, 2002 at 22:26 UTC
    Here are some of the tenets of XP (stolen from that we intend Perl 6 to support. And some practical examples of Perl 6 features that will support each of them. This list is by no means exhaustive (either of tenets or or supportive features) -- it's more to demonstrate that we aren't (just) marketing geniuses ;-)
    The project is divided into iterations/No functionality is added early.
    To do that, you need to be able to build applications incrementally. That implies leaving stubs representing components that are essential but not yet built. That's particularly easy in Perl 6:
    sub print_report {...}

    Move people around/Use collective code ownership.
    To do those things, you need to leave behind code that others can pick up easily. Many of the changes we're making to Perl 6 support that. For a simple (but non-trivial) example, rationalizing variable sigils cleans up code dramatically, making it easier to grok quickly. For a more complex example, Larry showed the design team the first draft of A5 yesterday. It's sensational! He's heavily refactored the regex syntax, and the result is that simple regexes become vastly more readable, and complex regexes vastly easier to get right.

    Refactor whenever and wherever possible.
    One of the unexpected benefits of the structural unification we've been making is that refactoring does become significantly easier. For example, every loop block is now actually a subroutine/closure specification. And if you use the -> $var {...} iterator specification, the loop block is actually a subroutine with parameters. So hoisting that code into a subroutine becomes utterly trivial.

    Code must be written to agreed standards.
    Perl 6 will make it easier to create, impose, and verify compliance with coding standards. Two examples:
    • Sandboxing will be much easier to use, so it will be possible to turn off language features whose use contravenes the agreed standard. For example, it will be simple to turn off the use of backticks, and have them "caught" at compile-time.
    • It will also be comparatively easy to intercept code in the middle of compilation (e.g. at the optree level) and write Perl modules that verify particular code opposed to individual constructs. For example, you might decree that variable names must conform to the project's data dictionary, and have a "policy test" module check every VAR node in the optree as the program is compiled. Or you might require that all pattern matches use an explicit $var =~ (rather than implicitly matching against the current topic). You'll be able to write a parse-tree analyser to verify that too.

    Leave optimization till last.
    ...or leave it to the machine. An important design goal for both Perl 6 and the underlying Parrot engine is to automate optimization as far as possible. The introduction of variable typing (in addition to Perl 5's value typing) helps there, as does the unification of blocks and closures. At the other end of the spectrum, Parrot's register-based architecture allows us to draw on the extensive literature on hardware and assembler optimization. BTW, where optimization at the higher, human level is desirable, it's almost always optimization of algorithm, not code. Many of the new, more advanced features that Perl 6 will add (e.g. higher order functions, lazy data structures, generators, coroutines, superpositions, smart matching, etc.) are specifically designed to support those more sophisticated algorithms.

    No overtime.
    Hardly new. Perl is already a "no overtime" language, since it allows you to get more done, more quickly, without the mechanics of the language getting in the way. We have no intention of changing that aspect of the language. In fact, every change we consider for Perl 6 is explicitly weighed against our stated goal that "Easy things should stay easy, hard things should become easier, and impossible things should become merely hard."

Re: Perl6 and Extreme Programming
by vladb (Vicar) on May 25, 2002 at 21:04 UTC
    Thanks for the topic you've picked Ovid. I too am very excited and look forward to many innovative 'tools' in Perl6 that will greatly enhance and support the kind of software development paradigm as XP.

    You are asking...

    Does anyone familiar with Perl6 care to offer concrete examples of what was meant by the XP quote?

    I'm happy to know of one such feature you are inquiring about. The feature is termed as 'higher-order functions'. You can read a full thread on the related RFC. Damian Conaway also touches this subject in one of his diary entries. Moreover, Damian has written an excellent Perl5 module to simulate this feature of Perl6. Not surprisingly the module is called Perl6::Currying.

    Having read through these resources, I'm sure you'll agree with me that this feature may well be amongst the few ones welcomed by the practitioners of the XP approach. One can develop a higher-order function and still use the function even with incomplete parameter list. This is great for a lot of resons. First, there's a way for you to write a function and test it in stages. Second, this allows for greater flexibility as to the use of a higher-order function. For example, you can derive lower-order variants of the higher-order functions to accomplish specific (albeit 'narrower' in purpose) tasks!

    Anyhow, please do take a read as I can't possibly describe this feature as good as it has already been described in the aforementioned resources! ;-)

    $"=q;grep;;$,=q"grep";for(`find . -name ".saves*~"`){s;$/;;;/(.*-(\d+) +-.*)$/; $_=["ps -e -o pid | "," $2 | "," -v "," "];`@$_`?{print"+ $1"}:{print" +- $1"}&&`rm $1`; print$\;}
      Higher-order functions sound much more like functional programming (lambda calculus) than extreme programming (do only the important things all of the time).

      I'd expect an answer more like, "It will be much easier to write a refactoring engine in Perl 6 -- and here's why.

        It will be much easier to write a refactoring engine in Perl 6 -- and here's why...

        You'll be able to grab the parse-tree from the compiler before it's converted to op-codes. Or after it's been converted, but before it's been reduced, if you prefer. Once you have a structured representation of the code, refactoring is "merely" the application of standard mathematical tree/graph factoring and optimization techniques.

      I am afraid you have it wrong. "Currying" and "higher-order functions" are two unrelated features that only have one thing in common: they often appear in functional languages. A function is "higher-order" if it accepts a function as it's parameter or if it returns a function (it "created").

      Higher order functions are long supported by Perl 5, even though we usualy do not use that name. (I guess so that we do not scare people away. Higher-order functions sounds too "functional".)

      sub Map { my $sub = shift(); my @new_arr; # want foreach my $item (@_) { push @new_arr, $sub->($item); } @new_arr; } sub foo {$_[0] + 1} @increased = Map \&foo, (1,2,3); print "@increased\n";
      On the other hand a function is curried if it returns a "partialy applied" function if called with only the first few parameters. Of course then it is also higer-order actualy, but that's not the point.
      sub Map { my $sub = shift(); if (@_) { # we are calling it normaly my @new_arr; # want foreach my $item (@_) { push @new_arr, $sub->($item); } return @new_arr; } else { # only the function is passed return sub { my @new_arr; # want foreach my $item (@_) { push @new_arr, $sub->($item); } return @new_arr; } } } sub foo {$_[0] + 1}; $inc = Map \&foo; @increased = $inc->(1,2,3); print "@increased\n";

      (Next day) Actually ... the second function is not a good example. It's both curried and uncurried. If I wanted a plain curried version I'd define it as

      sub Map { my $sub = shift(); return sub { my @new_arr; # want foreach my $item (@_) { push @new_arr, $sub->($item); } return @new_arr; } }
      and then would call it either as
      @incremented = Map(\&foo)->(1,2,3)
      $Inc = Map(\&foo); @incremented = $Inc->(1,2,3)
      As you can see the syntax is not too nice in Perl. Currying is a bit alien to Perl, it looks much more natural in modern functional languages.


Re: Perl6 and Extreme Programming
by stefp (Vicar) on May 26, 2002 at 04:19 UTC
    Crucial parts of complex systems are well defined feedback loops, short term loops being embedded in long terms ones. This is what Larry calls the whirlpool. In a sense, perl5, allowing to flesh up oneliners was already geared toward XP. Here is the XP version of the whirlpool model.

    -- stefp -- check out TeXmacs wiki

Re: Perl6 and Extreme Programming
by cLive ;-) (Prior) on May 26, 2002 at 10:30 UTC

    /me makes mental note to throw the following into the next chatterbox conversation about whether Windows is better than Linux :)

    Let me quote Ovid here: "We've started down the XP path at work and already I'm enjoying greater productivity"

    context? what context? lol

    cLive ;-)


Re: Perl6 and Extreme Programming
by Sifmole (Chaplain) on May 28, 2002 at 15:20 UTC
    Wouldn't supporting "Extreme Programming" have to contract based development? Better (??) Integration of test suites?

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[stevieb]: james28909: what's the problem/question?
[james28909]: it is not an absolute date like "27" or "31". sometimes it is like wednesday or friday
[james28909]: and i need to format those special instances into an absolute date instead of "yesterday"
[stevieb]: ask a question on SoPW, and include at least a half-dozen examples of the input, and at least one example of expected output
[davido]: Exactly: SoPW. This isn't going to be solved easily in the CB.
[james28909]: in need "yesterday" and so on, to be absolute like "1" or "31"
[stevieb]: ...and throw some of your existing code into the equation as well, just so readers know you've given a try at it ;)
[james28909]: ok
[stevieb]: davido thanks for the link ;) I was being the typical lazy
[davido]: date parsing is hard. The more examples you can provide of the input (within reason) and expected output, the better.

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