Are we Blub programmers?
From time to time I open my email and find someone asking a question:
What the hell is Blub? I take from context that it may be a pejorative generalist term for programming languages that encourage writing pablum instead of programs. Or maybe it really is a new language out there that has a huge following I'm unaware of.
, the "if you're not having fun, you're doing it wrong
Actually, Blub is a hypothetical programming language Paul Graham invented when describing something very interesting: the Blub Paradox
Blub falls right in the middle of the abstractness continuum... As long as our hypothetical Blub programmer is looking down the power continuum, he knows he's looking down. Languages less powerful than Blub are obviously less powerful, because they're missing some feature he's used to. But when our hypothetical Blub programmer looks in the other direction, up the power continuum, he doesn't realize he's looking up. What he sees are merely weird languages... Blub is good enough for him, because he thinks in Blub.
The interesting things about this paradox is that almost any
language could be Blub. The pre-requisites for a language being Blub are (a) there is at least one language less powerful than Blub, (b) there is at least one language more
powerful than Blub, and (c) that there be at least one programmer using Blub who accepts (a) but refutes (b) because he or she cannot see how the more powerful language is more powerful. She does not think in the idioms
that the more powerful language affords.
The Little MLer introduces ML (and Ocaml) through a series of entertaining and straightforward exercises leading up to the construction of the Y Combinator.
ML and OCaml introduce powerful strong typing and type inference. Both are great languages to learn: you will stretch your understanding of defining types and writing correct programs.
use the term, I am thinking of the language and also the programmers around it. Could Java be Blub? Sometimes, possibly often, but only when I'm thinking about Java programmers who dismiss Ruby's features as unnecessary. Could Ruby be Blub
? Sometimes, but only when I'm thinking about Ruby programmers who dismiss macros as unimportant.Could Lisp be Blub?
I suspect that Erlang and Haskell programmers might say that it is, provided we can find a Lisp programmer who feels that all progress in programming languages stopped when Common Lisp was standardized.
At the same time, Java is not Blub when I am thinking of programmers who are perfectly aware of its shortcomings and deliberately Greenspun around them for pragmatic reasons
. The same goes for any other language: it is sometimes Blub, and sometimes not Blub.
So... I use the term "Blub" to refer to a programming language in the context of intransigent programmers who feel that their chosen tool is the best tool possible.
Programming consists of overcoming two things: accidental difficulties, things which are difficult because you happen to be using inadequate programming tools, and things which are actually difficult, which no programming tool or language is going to solve.
This provokes a very obvious question: How do we know which things are accidentally difficult and which are actually difficult
? Is it only because we haven't discovered the right tool yet?
It's easy to find a Java programmer who believes that all of the Design Patterns in the GoF's book are necessary. She believes that the difficulties of applying those patterns are actual difficulties of programming systems. It is only when she learns a different language that she realizes how the patterns were strongly driven by limitations in Java's object model.
At that point she has an epiphany and understands that what she thought were actual difficulties were merely accidental difficulties. And the line between "accidental" and "actual" moves for her.
No matter how much each us us thinks we know right now, are we nevertheless like this Java programmer, unable to see the difference between accidental and actual differences because we simply haven't discovered a more powerful tool?
Are we Blub programmers?update: In praise of informed choices and Lisp is not the last word
Labels: java, lispy, popular