Archive for the ‘Blogging’ Category

Two Minutes Hate: “Why Functional Programming is a Pointless Dead End”

October 16, 2007

Okay, folks. Don’t forget what the Judges said: “So programmers should worry less about languages and more about good old complexity.” You can take from that the lesson that, for hard problems, raw analytical power and mathematical ability is more important than “coding skills.” But what the judges were talking about was the fact that while C programmers could get away with a slightly more “brute force” approach, a good data structure implemented in Haskell would have been fast enough to do the job as well. The issue was not so much one of language choice, but raw problem solving.

But I really don’t understand the hate that keeps emerging in this discussion. “After three years of functional programming I’m nearly out of that dark cave I’ve been living in, and back into this real world…. At least for me, functional programming seems to have been an infatuation – well worth the time spent on it but ultimately not useful.” Why the religious tone? He might say the same thing for all of those years he spent dabbling in Zen or Christianity.

I keep seeing similar “anti-testimonies” cropping up. Stuff like, “Oh I studied that in university.” Oh yeah… like going to university can make anyone an expert on programming. Others claim to have “tried” Haskell or have “looked into” functional programming. This supposedly gives them the authority to dismiss functional programming languages altogether, and maybe accuse the egg-heads of being lazy… in the “wrong” way.

Admit it guys, this is pretty shallow. I think it’s perfectly okay to pick a random church in your area, show up randomly, and decide that maybe Christianity is not for you. Just like its okay to look at a few random news items from the last years and conclude that Islam is a violent religion. Just like you can shave your head and eat vegetarian food as a Hare Krishna for a few months before getting bored with it. But while there’s not much chance of us ever (collectively) coming up with an agreed upon standard for judging the merits of the major world religions, I think we do have a means at our disposal for judging the merits of your opinion of functional programming: it’s called blogging.

Pick an off-beat language. Start studying. Attempt hard things. Write up your solution in a “show and tell” fashion. Try to become a better programmer. Then give us your opinion on whether or not you’d like to use Haskell or Lisp or whatever instead of your usual language. At least then we can have an objective way of judging your skill and depth of experience.

I don’t care about your “testimony”. It doesn’t add one whit to your credibility whatsoever. Programming is not a religion; show me your code! Tell me what’s hard for you and how you’re overcoming your limitations. If you’ve learned something cool, put it in a format where even I can understand it. Chances are that the way things are going, you’ll be able to apply the bulk of what you learn in your non-functional language anyway. But please… support your opinion with real code examples.

We are in an echo chamber…

October 4, 2007

 He’s right.  This does seem to be something of an echo chamber…

Echo Chamber