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Marketing Programming Languages

Steve Yegge:

"Language diversity is bad. What if someone has to debug your code in the middle of the night and they don't know that language? (every company, even those that don't work in the middle of the night) Don't use other languages; we don't hire for those skills. We don't trust those languages. We've invested in Fortran or Cobol or C or Java or whatever. No, no, no. "No" always comes from engineers. You build something cool and popular, and your CEO will love you for it. "

In discussing Ruby hype, Steve Yegge clearly understands software development economics yet the above comes off wrong in a goldmine of an essay on hyping programming languages. "No", as often as not, comes from hiring managers with a clue and people invested in the long to medium term of the codebase. Ship productivity is only part of the picture, the part engineers tend to decide to get. Because it's intangible, ethereal non-stuff, many peple think software is more or less disposable, but software that actually gets used can stick around for years, or decades. Not having a developer or support pool for that codebase is a problem.

No business wants to feel 0wned by engineers, no matter how talented or professional or ethical the engineers are. That's why marketing a programming language is a big deal - marketing above all else manages the perception of a developer base, that lots and lots of other people are onboard with the technology. Money guys can only show so much interest in the benefits of steel cable suspension bridges when the job market is awash only with carpenters. And if you're the only steel worker around, well, that's downright suspect, best get back to your saw :)

Finally, there's this gem:

"The worldwide Ruby culture is the warmest and friendliest I've seen in my long history with programming languages."

*Cough*. That's priceless! Aside from the stellar marketing, the Ruby crowd exhibit a kind of zeal, more cult than community. Maybe it's just Obie. And that Obscure Rails Guy. And Why The Lucky Stiff. And The Prags. And the Ex Java Massive. Yes, I'm joking :) They're really just like Mac devotees...

Anyway, here's a prediction. Steve Yegge is the next Greenspun|Spolsky|Graham.

March 5, 2006 01:02 AM


M. David Peterson
(March 6, 2006 11:06 AM #)

Hmmmm... Interesting point. On the surface, this could easily be seen as solid justification against CIL, or at very least the general spirit of CIL in providing an "Assembly on Steroids w/ a standardized interface."

In a perfect world where the interface into a modular component has been well designed and in and of itself interfaces into a well designed modular component-focused low-level architecture, do you feel that the language the component has been built in matters as much when the underlying architecture allows for any supported language to interface, build and extended from other components/modules, no matter what language they were built in?

I can see both sides of it

On one side -- "Of course! What happens when we need to fix a bug or a design flaw, or we need to extend the interface from the inside such that it can adapt to a new underlying architecture?"

On the other side -- "A well designed modular/component based architecture with well designed modules/components can be extended via smaller extensions to these modules/components, and don't need to be cracked open when any of these mentioned problems/needs take place."

The first argument would be less in favor of a CIL-type foundation, the second, obviously, more.

I'm not sure I have an opinion on this just yet. Your expertise and overall understanding of complex systems would certainly help in forming one, and I would guess that I'm not alone on this.


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» Programming Languages from Stefan Tilkov's Random Stuff
I came across Steve Yegge via Bill de hÓra; Steve has a lot of very interesting and entertaining posts. Tim Bray provides a nice intro, and also points to JRuby lead Charles Sutter — subscribed.... [Read More]

Tracked on March 6, 2006 07:21 AM