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Re: Choose the most powerful language

by Mungbeans (Pilgrim)
on May 01, 2001 at 18:32 UTC ( #76970=note: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

in reply to Choose the most powerful language

Pragmatically, if I was running a software house, I'd choose the language that I could get the most resource for. Resource being documentation, online sources, and most importantly: skilled developers .

I don't know the stats but I suspect that lisp/functional programmers are hard to find, and, because they are hard to find, lisp is used less frequently. This is a chicken and egg situation - there's a shortage of lisp projects because there is a shortage of lisp coders (and vice versa).

I don't grok functional programming yet (I'm working on it - thanks tilly for the book suggestion), but I suspect that functional programming will always be conceptually harder (albeit more productive) than procedural. I don't know the answer, but maybe some clever companies (like Paul Graham's example) will lead the way.

My 2p.

Replies are listed 'Best First'.
Re (tilly) 2: Choose the most powerful language
by tilly (Archbishop) on May 02, 2001 at 00:56 UTC
    I think there is a chicken and egg problem, but not where you believe it is.

    If there are fewer Lisp hackers running around, they are generally more competent and there are fewer jobs chasing them. I don't think that a small company would have problems finding competent Lisp hackers if they wanted to do a project in Lisp.

    However there is less done in Lisp, and the functional programming community has always suffered a lot from fragmentation. A reasonable caricature of the situation is that functional programming languages attract people who are looking for the best language. People who are so picky about their language tend to form strong opinions about what is good in a language, and do not in the end agree about what that best language is. So an already reasonably small group of people is then fragmented to the point where you have to expect to "roll your own" on virtually anything you do.

    Sure, rolling your own is much easier with such a great language and such talented developers. But having to do it is a great cost!

    I have some thoughts on when it is worthwhile to go out and roll your own, and when it is not. Some of those thoughts are likely to be rather controversial, but I will try to put them into a meditation in the next day or two. Suffice it to say that I believe that Paul Graham's choice was much better when he made it than it is now.

    Incidentally for another look at why functional languages have not taken off like wildfire, take a look at the famous essay Worse is Better. Please don't take what is said there as gospel, but think about it. Even a decade later, the author doesn't know whether to believe his own argument.

Re^2: Choose the most powerful language
by CountZero (Bishop) on Jun 14, 2004 at 20:24 UTC
    I read somewhere that most programming is done in (Visual) Basic. So if you are looking to get the most resources (including programmers), your best bet should be Visual Basic! But is Visual Basic the best language for the job you want it to do? Who knows? It will depend on the job at hand, but from a management perspective, you are almost assured that you wil find someone reasonably adept in maintaining your VB code, many years after the original programmers have left your company. Lisp may be far superior (I don't know enough of it to make any statement in this respect) to VB or any other language, but if you have to look far and wide to find a programmer to rescue your program and are not guaranteed to find h[er|im] within a reasonable span of time, you're toast as will be your company.

    The interesting thing which was written in the article tilly referred to, was that Yahoo seems to have switched from Lisp to C++ now ... 'nuf said.


    "If you have four groups working on a compiler, you'll get a 4-pass compiler." - Conway's Law

      There is no question that a mainstream language is a "safe" choice. No problems finding programmers, and lots of other companies you can point at doing the same thing if things go wrong.

      The point of the original article is that there are times when the risk of going with a non-mainstream language is worth it. One of them is the case of a small startup where the founder (or someone close to the founder) is familiar with the language, and the language is very productive.

      But try that in a larger company, and if anything goes wrong you're in trouble when people start questioning whether your odd choice had anything to do with the problem. Whether or not you chose wisely, you'll be a convenient target after the fact. :-(

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