Laura's List - was Re: new years resolutions

Andrew McGregor andrew at
Wed Jan 8 05:21:26 CET 2003

--On Wednesday, January 08, 2003 04:57:00 +0100 Laura Creighton 
<lac at> wrote:

> I don't think that languages are wise, but they certainly can promote
> wisdom, or cleverness.  One of the reasons Perl scripts are hard to
> maintain is that it is very easy to pour cleverness on  cleverness.
> You get preoccupied with 'what minimal clever hack can I do today to
> modify this program to make it fit my new requirements'.  Days, weeks,
> months after you should have tossed some code and written it with the
> new specs, you think that with one more tweak you can get it to work
> and 'save you rewriting it'.  But the rewriting would have been faster
> and clearer.  You waste your life trying to be clever.  And there is
> something about Perl that encourages such unprofitable time-wasting.
> I still don't understand why this is so, but I have watched it in myself
> and others again, and again, and again.
> Laura

It's the syntax, I'm sure.  So much power in single characters, and the 
canonical way of doing so many things is regexps.

The biggest thing that drives perl and C++ into hackishness, and Python, 
Pascal and Lisp the other way, is syntactic regularity or lack thereof.

I'm not sure where C lies.

You can see the same thing in physics; contrast the notation of classical 
mechanics with the operator algebra formulation of QM.  Or even the 
classical vs relativistic notations for relativistic EM.

I think the driving force is that a clean design takes more typing in Perl, 
whereas in Python it's usually much, much less.


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