More Software posts
June 05, 2002
Perl's had its day - It's become like COBOL

On Lambda the Ultimate this morning was a posting discussing Larry Wall's latest Perl language design statements, this time about regular expressions. As usual Ehud Lamm had interesting things to say not just about the proposal but also about the meta issue of language design.

Meanwhile, at the same time, over on the other side of town, on slashdot, the latest perl musings were also being discussed. When I got to this discussion it had about 4 posts rated at +3 or above, and they were all rated funny. Clearly no serious discussion was taking place yet. I would have liked to see some posts about people's experience with perl, the perl 6 efforts, alternatives to perl, in fact anything but more funny remarks. I thought maybe I could try and get a discussion started. A lofty and presumptuous goal. A provocative post title looked like a good way to attract attention and get people talking, so I posted Perl's had its day - It's become like COBOL.

I think this is a defensible argument. Certainly I would say that Perl has had its day. I don't think it will again be the defacto choice for scripting or cgi programming the way it once was. It used to dominate the space it is in, it's less dominant now with the rise of python and ruby for scripting and php for cgi work; I don't think it will get its dominance back. It will still be used but some of this use will be because of legacy perl code that must be maintained or extended instead of rewritten. The rest will be for quick scripts that must be written and the writer happens to knows perl, the situation I find myself in from time to time. In some ways this is similar to COBOL, legacy use and legacy users.

Actually some of the resulting discussion was interesting, though not perhaps as interesting as I had hoped. What was more interesting to me was the history of the moderation done to the post and the light it threw for me on the slashdot groupthink that occurs. The post started off at +2 climbed to +4 (interesting) where upon it must have attracted attention as it was hit with flamebait and troll to end up at +2 (troll). Then it started to go up again and it currently sits at +3 (interesting) having had 11 moderation points used on it. Result as of now:

Moderation Totals: Flamebait=2, Troll=1, Insightful=1, Interesting=4, Overrated=2, Underrated=1, Total=11.

A quick look at the moderation of other posts in the threads and it seems like they generally get a small number of points, maybe 1 to 3, all in the same direction. There is also a really strong tendency for moderators to use offtopic to force threads to stay rigidly on topic when a bit of drift would make for a much more interesting discussion. Ah well, it was fun.

Posted by Alex at June 05, 2002 07:53 PM
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