Python's "only one way to do it" philosophy isn't good?

Michele Simionato michele.simionato at gmail.com
Wed Jun 20 08:25:58 CEST 2007


Douglas Alan wrote:
> I think that most people who program in Scheme these days don't do it
> to write practical software.  They either do it to have fun, or for
> academic purposes.  On the other hand, most people who program in
> Python are trying to get real work done.  Which is precisely why I
> program a lot in Python and very little in Scheme these days.  It's
> nice to have the batteries included.
>
> |>oug

A few years ago, tired by the endless threads on comp.lang.python
asking from the inclusion of macros in Python, I decided to
learn Scheme and to understand what the fuss was about.

Learning Scheme coming from Python was not difficult for
what concerned the language features properly, but it was
extremely difficult for what concerned the philosophy behind
the language. I remember that I was expecially angry when I
discovered that the famous Sussman's quotation "Programming
languages should be designed not by piling feature on top
of feature, but by removing the weaknesses and restrictions
that make additional features appear necessary" was
just a bunch of nice words.

In practice Scheme follows exactly the opposite route: there are
dozens of different and redundant object systems, module systems,
even record systems, built just by piling up feature over feature.
So the minimalism of the core language is just a lie or at best
a red herring (the core language can be minimalistic, but the core
language is basically useless for any real life job).

I was angry for months, until I finally understood that I had to
look at the language in a different way. I thought Scheme was a
language to build applications, but I was wrong:
Scheme is a language intended for language design experimentations.

So if you have an idea for a new and cool object system,
Scheme would be a good tool for prototyping/implementing it without
going at the Assembler or C level. OTOH, if you have an idea
for a new Web framework, Python would be a much better tool
to implement it (but please, don't publish it! ;)


So I basically view Scheme as a tool for
language designers only, or with people with interest in
language design and I don't use it for anything else.

I see Python or C as much better practical implementations
of Sussman's quote about minimalism than real Scheme (for
an example of real Scheme, I refer for instance to the PLT
implementation).


 Michele Simionato




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