"Show me your flowcharts and conceal your tables, and I shall continue to be mystified. Show me your tables, and I won't usually need your flowcharts; they'll be obvious."
The Mythical Man-Month (1975)
Still fascinating though. Usenet was like a crash course in seeing how people can be dicks. Still can't decide whether I regret it or not.
Room titles went from Nerd/Hacker/CS to Single Meetup rooms, PR0N and Music topics. I left maybe just in time and moved to IRC (A-Net was also HELL the 4-chan Grandfather)????
But generally, I think the glow of OO as some kind of awesome panacea for software development woes has worn off. Or at the very least, the way it was sold back in the 90s has been pretty much debunked.
Having been a follower of OOP since the early 90s until my disillusionment in the mid 00s, to my mind only a handful of problem domains are best modelled as interacting graphs of mutable objects, and the set grows smaller over time. I'm increasingly unconvinced that procedures+SQL done well is inferior to the average developer's OOP code. And if OOP hasn't delivered that kind of mental leverage, then it's mostly a sham.
(I should add that I'm far more inclined to try and model things functionally, with functions that turn input into a set of logical diffs rather than straight-up database modifications, than actually advocate all-out procedural programming with raw SQL. But even raw SQL is superior to effectively performing complex queries in a non-relational language, where the indexes are built by hand and passed around.)
> But even raw SQL is superior to effectively performing complex queries in a non-relational language, where the indexes are built by hand and passed around.
I think that's a bit of a strawman, that's not what OO is.
> In a heterogeneous world, the idea that you have an authoritative model defined in any one language, that merely uses the database for persistence, is untenable.
That's not what OO is either.
Re complex queries in a non-relational language: I know that's not what OO is, but if you're trying to perform a map / filter / aggregate operation across several different collections (sometimes these kinds of things need to be done!), OO doesn't give you many tools, and the tools you can build are usually poor versions of what's available in functional languages, which are themselves less specialized and less declarative than relational languages.
If you can represent your problem as a map/filter/aggregate operation, it (a) becomes more testable, (b) more parallelizable in both large and small and (c) more composable. I happen to think it ends up being easier to read, write and reason about too. So I try hard to make my problems look like this, because I know the tools in that area are very strong.
Objects being more than structs with immutable data is exactly what's wrong with them. OO encourages you to reason about behaviour in terms of invariants: what's true before vs what's true after, or what is always true for an instance. I think that's strictly inferior to reasoning by transformation: what is the input vs what is the output. In particular, I think functional transformation is more composable than invariants. I'd feel happier about OO and its implicit invariants if they were made more explicit, and more than just like Eiffel: it needs to be in the type system, if possible.
Yes, but as already stated, the world is bigger than CRUD apps and a big collection of facts about the world isn't very useful without any behavior attached to those facts. Once behavior is involved, OO becomes useful.
> but if you're trying to perform a map / filter / aggregate operation across several different collections (sometimes these kinds of things need to be done!), OO doesn't give you many tools
As those things are completely orthogonal to OO, so what? You can perfectly well use the database to do the map/filter/querying and still have an OO program; OO has nothing to do with map/filter/querying, so as I said already, this is a strawman.
> Objects being more than structs with immutable data is exactly what's wrong with them.
No, it's exactly what's right with them. It is the very reason they exist, it's entirely the point of OO to hide data and expose behavior instead through a message based interface. Structs aren't objects, so claiming objects being more than structs is what's wrong them is to claim that objects shouldn't exist and that claim is unsupportable.
> I think that's strictly inferior to reasoning by transformation: what is the input vs what is the output. In particular, I think functional transformation is more composable than invariants.
Functional programming is great, and mixes quite well with OO, but it's not what's being discussed, we're comparing OO to procedural programming as implemented by topmind and his table oriented programming here.
Both of your replies are strawmen, you cast objects as data and then complain that they're bad at being data: but objects aren't about data, they're about pluggable behavior as I've already said. You have to step outside the "data is everything" mindset to actually see what OO is and where its value lies.
Frankly you don't give me the impression than you actually understand object oriented programming, like topmind himself, you seem to be full of misconceptions related to an inability to step outside the "it's all data" mindset. I could be wrong, but that's the impression you're leaving.
Take a basic example from a simple CRUD app; say I'm selling a CRUD app to many businesses, many of which already have corporate websites with global login systems and they want my app to use their member database and login system. The solution is simple and obvious, make my authentication system pluggable and for each big client that's worth the effort, implement a custom login provider that ties my authentication into their existing systems API. Can you describe a nice scalable procedural solution to this problem that's better than the obvious OO solution?
You can certainly go very far with interfaces, as both COM and HTTP have shown. Neither are object oriented, but both abstract away implementation details to compose behaviour. How HTTP has evolved and succeeded compared to COM shows the relative strengths and weaknesses: such pluggable behaviour works best when composing larger systems, rather than in the small, at the level of implementation details. That's exactly where OO is poor.
I will still contend that a cyclic graph of mutable objects (whether they look like message-passing interfaces or not) makes for a very marshy foundation. The reason is mutability and lack of idempotence. These are critical to why functional is a better approach compared to OO. To the degree that interfaces expose mutability, and they are composed in large enough mass, the same problems as OO will arise. There's a reason I keep harping on about mutability despite accusations of straw men: it is the fundamental flaw at the heart of OO.
> Functional programming is great, and mixes quite well with OO
It does not. You have to work very hard in most OO languages to get FP right; in statically typed languages, the type system isn't expressive enough, and most dynamically typed languages default to too much mutability.
There was a chap back in the day who advocated object-oriented assembly, Randall Hyde. The discipline required reminds me of attempts to do FP in an OO language. The minimum needed for FP in OO is a decent lambda syntax (do you remember the horrible gymnastics with overloaded operators in C++ before lambdas? - boost::lambda etc); without that, it's not worth the syntactic overhead. With it, something can be accomplished. But nominal typing really sucks, and OO programmers love giving their types distinct names, explicitly preventing the reuse they allegedly are after.
From several decades of observation, I have a theory that OOP programmers get caught up in a reward feedback loop around ceremony and prefabricated patterns, a quasi-religious endorphin rush from following formalisms that aren't strictly necessary to address the problem head-on. When a programmer isn't particularly good at crafting good solutions but can follow the OOP idioms, they can create a lot of stuff fairly quickly that looks like work, and if it fits together nicely it seems like it's elegant. But it's like carpentry focused on the joins instead of the structure: at risk of becoming baroque and unstable.
Good developers can write good OO code, of course - good developers can write good code in any language. But I don't know of anything else with the same power to clarify thinking than functional composition - it levers the mind with a solid tool rather than a wobbly, lashed-together one. And objects compose to make wholes that are less stable than their parts - because they are mutable, and state spaces multiply. Mutability is always the problem in the end.
Functional programming: programming in a style where functions are the basic building blocks of the program and are passed around as data to other functions along with raw data, i.e. Lisp, Scheme, Haskell. (note, functional languages are not necessarily immutable).
Pure functional programming: programming in a functional style as above, with the additional insistence on not allowing mutable state at all. i.e. (no language is truly pure because side effects are a must, but Haskell comes close).
Object oriented Programming: programming in a style where objects are the basic building blocks of the program with 3 basic features, late binding, encapsulation, and polymorphism allowing the hiding of raw data behind a message passing interface so that the program is centered around object behavior rather than object data. (note neither classes nor inheritance are necessary features of OO systems, they are simply common features).
> I think you're more interested in interfaces than objects, actually. All the problems of objects - inheritance most especially, but mutable state too - aren't relevant if you're primarily interested in "pluggable behaviour", which really is an interface-oriented mindset, not an OO one.
> You can certainly go very far with interfaces, as both COM and HTTP have shown. Neither are object oriented
Again, I think you're incorrect, COM stands for Component Object Model, and most certainly is object oriented. An HTTP endpoint that supports GET/SET/PUT/DELETE is merely an object that has 4 standardized methods, it supports late binding, implementation hiding, and polymorphism, the primary features desired from any object system. Each endpoint is an object that accepts 4 messages. It doesn't have to be an instance of a class to be an object.
> I will still contend that a cyclic graph of mutable objects (whether they look like message-passing interfaces or not) makes for a very marshy foundation. The reason is mutability and lack of idempotence.
Neither of those have anything to do with OO; you can have an OO system of entirely immutable objects. Again, you're critiquing implementation details of systems you've seen that use objects and then blame objects for features those systems have that have nothing to with with OO. Just because an OO system does something bad, doesn't mean it's OO itself that is the issue.
> There's a reason I keep harping on about mutability despite accusations of straw men: it is the fundamental flaw at the heart of OO.
No, it isn't, because mutability isn't at the heart of OO. While it's perfectly valid from a functional perspective to critique mutability, it does not follow that said critique applies to OO in general. Objects do not have to be mutable, while it's common for OO systems to be mutable, what makes an OO system is not the mutability. This is again a strawman, you mean to critique mutability, not OO, they are simply orthogonal.
One of the most useful objects in systems I work on is the Money object; it's immutable, it's treated as a primitive, it's easy to reason about and won't allow things like adding different currencies together or dividing and losing pennies. Object systems contain many such objects, another one is String. Now String... well that's a very used and very useful object with a bazillions little methods on it that return new instances of String that look differently like .ToTitleCase()... again, pure OO, no mutability in sight.
> It does not.
You're mistaken, Smalltalk the language is an elegant mix of OO and functional programming. Functions are passed around to higher order functions to do work in virtually all parts of the system and nearly all standard idioms use such higher order functional programming. Here, I think you're confusing functional programming style with immutable functional programming, they are not the same thing. Lisp is a functional programming language and everything is mutable. Functional does not mean immutable.
> You have to work very hard in most OO languages to get FP right; in statically typed languages, the type system isn't expressive enough, and most dynamically typed languages default to too much mutability.
Immutability is an implementation detail of some functional programming languages, it is not a requirement. The discussion about immutability vs mutability applies to all programming paradigms and is simply orthogonal to the OO vs procedural vs functional debate.
> From several decades of observation, I have a theory that OOP programmers get caught up in a reward feedback loop around ceremony and prefabricated patterns, a quasi-religious endorphin rush from following formalisms that aren't strictly necessary to address the problem head-on.
On that we agree, but those are just bad programmers; their failures are not a critique of the OOP style itself.
> But I don't know of anything else with the same power to clarify thinking than functional composition - it levers the mind with a solid tool rather than a wobbly, lashed-together one.
I agree, but this has little to do with OO, and more to do with referential transparency. Yes, pure functions are easier to reason about than methods who depend on hidden internal state. But objects can be useful without any state at all. Smalltalk implements its conditional statements using polymorphic objects True and False, both subclasses of Boolean, and none of these classes have any state at all; their identity alone is all that is needed to implement the entirety of boolean logic purely in the library, i.e. Smalltalk has no procedural constructs like an if statement or a while statement or a for or foreach statement; it's all done with functional programming and objects.
> And objects compose to make wholes that are less stable than their parts - because they are mutable, and state spaces multiply. Mutability is always the problem in the end.
Again, since one can build a perfectly OO system out of entirely immutable objects, then obviously this critique again misses the mark and blames OO for something that simply isn't an OO thing. Yes, most OO systems have mutable state, that's an implementation choice those programmers made, they didn't have to, but they chose mutability. Your critique is against mutability, not against OO.
Indeed, the CRUD service itself is an OO interface (send it GET/POST messages to an endpoint). How that's implemented behind that need not be OO.
Everything from farming on up can be described as "first we do X then we do Y".
When you interact with other people, you do it the OO way, you send them a message and they either act on it or not depending on their own internal state with different people able to respond differently to the same set of messages; I can just as easily claim we humans work in OO ways.
Beyond that, it's easier to describe a sequence of steps in OO where the implementation details can be hidden and swapped out with different implementations than in procedures where the logic and implementation are all mixed together and tightly coupled.
Disclaimer: these ideas are all unoriginal and some of them directly borrowed from other commenters in this thread.
For actually driving logic, it tends to be somewhat user unfriendly unless there's something intrinsically table-oriented in the domain. The best table-oriented program I ever worked with was a disassembler; naturally, machine code (particularly the x86 series) lends itself to tables since unused / reserved opcodes in one generation turn into prefixes in the next.
Tables do make explicit the entire state space, though, and if followed to the logical cross-product extreme, are agnostic to the hierarchy imposed by OOP. But the geometric space explosion of cross-products makes you want to create new abstractions to cover more ground, and you start to lose what tables gave you to begin with.
What kind of abstractions are you thinking of? ORM?
There is an interesting comparison between tables and s-expression on c2.com that might interest you:
"The average for TOP is higher than es-exp's in my opinion, so they are the better general-purpose tool, especially if complexity of a project grows over time. I rarely see project complexity shrink over time, thus it seems more logical to emphasize the higher end when making a judgment rather than the lower end. If you see dark clouds on the horizon, you should pick the bigger umbrella even though the current rain may be light. -- top "
S-exprs are simply a representation for trees, and you can use trees for anything - not necessarily the most efficient way, but trees are very flexible. But trees encode policy: the choice of root and branch determines what's cheap and what's expensive. Tables are agnostic, but they pay for their agnosticism with their dimensionality.
Cool features: tables could be much larger than memory; they were swapped out as needed. Temporary tables would just stay in memory until memory pressure grew too high; then they were automatically spilled to disk.
What in unix are weird-looking files (termcap, I'm looking at you!) were just tables of data.
Unlike SQL table, RS/1 simply let you change tables using a nice editor (or via SQL-like commands).
Also unlike SQL tables, RS/1 tables should be grouped into objects; an XY graph was simply a collection of tables (a data table, a table for options like line color, some ticks tables, and more). Normally you edit a graph using a nice editor, but you could also edit the (documented) underlying tables.
Overall, it was the single most productive programming and data manipulation environment (for it's time) that I've used.
That makes it super easy to author state machines using Excel with arbitrary data per state. Super useful and provided a great way for designers to do the game logic in Excel while I focused on the physics or whatever else.
It was also orders of magnitude faster than any other format the studio was using for data - XML was truly disasterously awful, but even decent formats would be doing parsing, translating, copying and memory allocation per node from whatever file format they were using. Compare that to a table that is ready to go in memory after a single fread().
I still wouldn't call it Table Oriented Programming, nor suggested that it is somehow opposed to Object Oriented Programming, but I do have experience to back up how some of the ideas in this article are good.
Not to say that this is necessarily a better idea, but I find it interesting enough to wonder what analogous things are out there right now.
Aside: I find this a neat example of some hidden knowledge buried in the historical web that could easily have been lost if it weren't for brave internet archivists. Kudos to the internet archive et al!
"TOP languages do exist in various levels or incarnations of Table-orientedness. These include Xbase derivatives (dBASE, FoxPro, Clipper), PAL (Paradox), Power-Builder, Perl (for certain list types), Progress, Oracle's PL/SQL, and Clarion Developer."
A quick web search shows that all of these are apparently still actively developed and used. I don't think any one is modern in the particular sense I understand your question since, apart from Perl, they were all attempts to create the fourth generation languages that were supposed to take over from structured programming.
This style makes it really easy to dynamically add buttons for actions, verify you've got shortcut keys for different actions, things are hooked up in menus, things like that.
IMHO, it's of limited value. On the other hand, any time you've got several maps that all need to stay in sync something more table like is really nice. A map and it's inverse, several maps all pointing at the same values, things like that.
Incidentally, the box with all the knobs is an art piece by Miller Levy, not a functional device. Here's the original.
Improv was an attempt to redefine the way a spreadsheet program should work, to make it easier to build new spreadsheets and to modify existing ones. Conventional spreadsheets used on-screen cells to store all data, formulas, and notes. Improv separated these concepts and used the cells only for input and output data. Formulas, macros and other objects existed outside the cells, to simplify editing and reduce errors. Improv used named ranges for all formulas, as opposed to cell addresses.
There was a proposal to add user-defined table-based functions to Excel, by a group of authors including none other than Simon Peyton Jones, a major contributor to Haskell and GHC. Here's that paper: http://research.microsoft.com/en-us/um/people/simonpj/Papers...
Curiously, the paper is titled 'Improving the world's most popular functional language: user-defined functions in Excel'.
(And by the way, you can already name and refer to any range of cells in Excel, not just a row or a column. There's also a GUI dialog that lets you manage the names, e.g. rename, delete etc.)
The reason people reach for spreadsheets seems to be because they are visual. much like the register panel "blinkenlights" on early computers, spreadsheets allows someone to glance across and check the state of things.
And in an earlier discussion about this, someone pointed me to Apple's Numbers spreadsheet. There you can have multiple freely moveable and expandable sheets on screen at the same time, each addressable via its own name.
Of course, what they're doing is programming, but the genius of spreadsheets is that it lets "non-programmers" program while hiding from them the fact that they're programming.
That sounds like a big improvement on the model we all use every day: a 1D grid of editable memory locations without a[n inherent] type system.
A separate me product - power pivot does something like this - ms needs to add this as native functionality to Excel, since normal pivot tables are so unflexible, I never use them anymore.
Updated Requirements dictate that we need to add a field? Just spend a few days adding the same field to 20 different classes and converters!
UI team asks that our REST APIs allow them to filter fields? One of the lead's head exploded because he couldn't conceive how to do that without strongly-typed objects.