Why I Won't Use Your Programming Langauge

I keep running into people at parties or whatnot who mock me for using Perl and claim that “only .NET is a real programming language” (sic.) Most of the time they are trolling, but I figure I might as well make measurements for what I think of as a reasonably useful programming language. I’ll break this up into two groups of things. The first group is stuff that I want when programming at home for fun. The second is stuff that must be there if I am to use the language seriously at work; the second group contains the first group.

Note that if you have some neat thing to play with for a weekend, that’s fine. I had a good time playing with Factor but I don’t know of it meets all of these requirements. I wouldn’t do a big project with it or use it at work though.

Stuff Needed For the Language To Be Reasonably Fun

Anonymous Subroutines

Functions and objects are not the only abstractions that I need to get stuff done. If your langauge doesn’t have anonymous subroutines (anonymous classes do not count) I don’t want to hear about your language.

Dynamic Scope

Dynamic Scope is a powerful tool. You shouldn’t use it unless you really need it, but there are such times.

Thriving OSS Community

Are there open source, community maintained Web Frameworks, ORM’s, and other commonly needed tools in your language? If such tools must be bought or only come from a single source (that is, a very small community) then it isn’t good enough.

Extension Distribution Framework

If I cannot run a command (or maybe some GUI tool) and install new libraries (or packages or whatever they are called in your language) and their dependencies you are asking too much of me as a developer. If you don’t respect my time I don’t respect your langauge. Get out.

Strong backwards compatibility

Does your language try hard to maintain backwards compatibility? If your langauge breaks my code (no matter how bad the code is) every two or three years you (again) don’t respect my time as a developer.

Stuff Needed For the Language To Be Useful At Work

A Good ORM

Your ORM should support the big databases out there: MySQL, PostgreSQL, Oracle, SQL Server, and SQLite (for development.) I should be able to deploy the database from the ORM and also generate ORM files from the database. I should be able to automatically deploy serious stuff like foreign key constraints and unique constraints. As much as possible should be able to be overridden. I should be able to add some extension to a given table to automatically populate certain columns or whatever. I should also be able to make predefined searches that I can extend without going crazy.

A Good Web Framework

This isn’t hard. I use a pretty powerful web framework, but you don’t even need all of that. I need reasonably flexible dispatching, a well-defined “flow” (so I can hook in at different levels and do validation or whatever else,) sensible MVC helpers, and a development server so I don’t need to install a server on my laptop get work done.

There’s more depending on what you do. For example if you do a lot of event driven programming you need a solid framework (or at least language level programming.)

Obvious Stuff

Cross Platform

I can’t think of a lot of languages that violate this, but I might as well put it down.

Garbage Collection

My time is worth more than the computer’s. I don’t want to waste time with memory allocation.

What languages (aside from Perl and Javascript) support these features that you use?

Posted Tue, Dec 14, 2010