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chromatic (983)

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Tuesday February 05, 2008
02:39 AM

You Don't Often Get a Softball Like This

[ #35582 ]

As Ruby grows, how many more desirable features will have to be hacked in with new syntax? How much more foresight does the present syntax lack? How many syntax rules can a programmer be expected to remember? Saying "there's more than one way to do it" doesn't fly here. You'd have to say instead, "you're going to have to learn how to do this a different way later, if you want to use the nice features."


The answer to this one is basically XML, or, to the initiated, S-expressions.

Joseph Miklojcik, Growth, Syntax, Ruby 1.9, and That Bad Smell You Smell

My imp of the perverse took particular pride in immediately summoning to mind a quote from the preface of SICP. Recite with me:

Thus, programs must be written for people to read, and only incidentally for machines to execute.

Until hand-written S-expressions or hand-written XML become something other than unshockingly unpopular for communication even between programmers, I'll continue to believe that syntax matters and that maybe making parsers smarter is a worthwhile goal in programming language research.

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  • VoiceXML. I worked with one of the first every production-grade VoiceXML systems, and I gotta say I completely forgive it for being XML. It's brilliantly suitable for the task that it does.

    Everything else, of course, sucks ass.
  • I have great respect for your opinions, and your scheme on parrot inspired my interest in the project.

    However I have come to disagree quite strongly with complex semantics in syntax for programming languages. It only makes meta-programming harder.

    I have yet to see the meta-programming power of lisp macros come out of a semantic rich syntax in a programming language.

    I often wonder at the mystery of why the parens are a put-off. They were for me initially, but now that I am used to them I find th

    I hope to never make the mistake of mastering programming.
    • I have yet to see the meta-programming power of lisp macros come out of a semantic rich syntax in a programming language.

      Has anyone even tried? Perl 6 is the first serious attempt I know of. We’ll see what comes of that.

      Where would perl6 be if the grammar was simplified with prefix instead of infix ? if it was possible to express in a PEG ? maybe it would even be here already, one can only speculate.

      Except it would be Lisp, not Perl. It would probably be as successful as Lisp, too.

      • The death of lisp has been greatly exaggerated, along with similar claims for the death of perl. UNIX was dead too. Yet it seems that not only are all present and accounted for, but they are all growing too.

        If perl has a major advantage over lisp for production work it is the single implementation of perl. I don't think anyone was willing to write a perl lexer just to make their own dialect :)

        Considering that Industry practice drives at cheapening labor by lowering the bar with dumbed down languages

        I hope to never make the mistake of mastering programming.
        • Who said Lisp is dead? Not me; I wouldn’t say a silly thing like that. What I said is that Perl has been vastly more successful than Lisp. Do you dispute that?

          • In trying to write a response, lost in thought, I realize that I could bounce this back and forth in my head for days, considering various angles.

            very good question !

            If you find this discussion truly interesting I am willing to continue the discussion, but in e-mail, considering that it has rapidly progressed to what in programming should be considered a timeless question.

            I will think it over though. I really like the question. If we do continue I pose a counter-question indicating my current l

            I hope to never make the mistake of mastering programming.
            • Lisp is timeless like mathematics. Perl is timeless like language.

              • an interesting reply. I haven't had the time yet to noodle on this as I have been coding.

                To try and fold this tangent back into the tack of the original reply I think that languages like Lisp and Perl with powerful meta-programming facilities allow the abstraction level to be raised significantly by making both very specific and very general semantics easy to implement.

                When the language or the specifics of a problem domain have been leveraged to clarify the code, understanding the code requires a b

                I hope to never make the mistake of mastering programming.